You Might Want to Stay Away From Camper Vans Right Now

The #vanlife took our pandemic and the “post”-pandemic world by storm. It was wild. We went from van people being (lovingly) weirdos and rock climbers (same thing) to a bazillion-dollar industry selling six-figure campers like they were sticks of bubble gum. No one seemed to care. They just kept ordering campers, RVs, trailers, vans, and overland camper trucks like we were running out, which, I guess, we were. However, now people are starting to slow down, and we think you should too. You might want to stay away from camper vans for now. 

Vintagae VW Camper van at a camp ground
Vintage VW camper van | PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

Don’t buy a camper van right now

Well, maybe I should offer a caveat: If you aren’t rich, then you might want to wait to buy the camper van of your dreams. I get it. I also love camper vans. I enjoy driving in them, packing them, planning trips in them, and, of course, camping in them. However, I’m sure I’d also like flying a golden fighter jet over my 1,000,000-acre ranch. If you’ll excuse the over-the-top comparison, what I’m saying is camper vans are extremely rad, but the market has run away with itself. 

The fact of the matter is camper vans, pop-up trailers, and even Airstreams were once a middle-class goal that, for many Americans, required a little saving, maybe stretching the credit for a few months. The point is; that they were attainable. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find many options for under $50k. And thanks to the supply shortage, if you want a camper van before the sun eventually explodes, you better be prepared to spend double. 

Now is the time to save up and wait, and here’s why. 

Campers are probably more expensive today than they will ever be

Gear Patrol points out that campers have never been cheap. The wild pandemic demand, supply chain issues, and the added demand that comes with people now knowing they are hard to get has created a sort of super market that is yielding insane prices. For reference, Gear Patrol estimates that over 540,000 campers have sold since the pandemic. That’s a lot. 

So we know parts are at a premium, demand is at an all-time high, and the economy is strange right now. Buying a camper van right now will come at an unprecedented premium. 

Fuel prices aren’t helping either

If the cost of the camper doesn’t freak you out, fuel prices might. Although we have seen a merciful dip at the pump, don’t forget that $4 per gallon is not a good price; it’s only better. For many larger campers, diesel engines are preferred. Whether you have diesel or gasoline, campers require large fuel tanks to hold enough go-juice to get you deep in the woods without fear of running dry. It is not uncommon for some campers to take $500 of fuel, especially when fuel is over $5 a gallon. 

Will campers hold their value? 

This is probably the biggest question you should ask when buying a camper these days. Now that the demand is high and more campers are made and sold now than ever before, that means that, eventually, there will be a huge used market with a flood of inventory. When this day comes, what will your $120,000 camper with 55,000 miles be worth when there are another 100 on the market? 

This problem only worsens when you factor in the impending death of fossil fuels. In 10, 15, 20, or however many years it takes, will gas and diesel rigs have any value if you can’t drive them in certain states or even countries? 

What will happen to campers?

Look, we are not financial advisors, politicians, or any other type of people who are qualified to attempt to predict the political future or give you financial advice. We are car nerds who have watched an unprecedented boom in the camper van market. The future of campers is uncertain, and buying one at the peak of the market feels unwise. But if you are tired of waiting, we get it. Good luck.

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